Via The New York Times
By Emily Baumgaertner

The following passage is an excerpt; click here to read the full article.

The average length of time in solitary confinement over the last five years was 27 days, almost twice the number that the U.N. believes constitutes torture. More than 680 cases of isolation lasted at least three months, the records show; 42 of them lasted more than one year.

The researchers’ work began more than six years ago when faculty members at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program started requesting documents from the Department of Homeland Security through the Freedom of Information Act. They eventually sued, obtaining some records through an order from a Federal District Court judge in Massachusetts.

Among the documents were copies of emails and monitoring reports exchanged between ICE headquarters officials and records of facility inspections by independent groups and the Homeland Security inspector general. The researchers also received a spreadsheet of data from the Segregation Review Management System, a database kept by ICE headquarters staff members on cases of solitary confinement across 125 facilities, including the rationale, dates, duration and location for each case.

Data analysts used Excel and Stata to calculate average durations and the total number of confinement placements, as well as to compare the data across years and facilities.

ICE arrests and holds immigrants in facilities across the country that are run by private companies. Some of those people were convicted of serious crimes in the United States and turned over to immigration authorities after they finished serving sentences; they remain in custody until they are deported. Others crossed the border unlawfully and, rather than being released into the country, are transferred to a detention center where they remain at least until the outcome of their deportation or asylum hearings.

Even in the case of convicted criminals, the use of solitary confinement is controversial. Prolonged isolation has been linked to brain damage, hallucinations, heart palpitations, poor sleep, reduced cognitive function and increased risk of self-harm and suicide. Just last week New York City ended the use of solitary confinement in the city’s jails.

Filed in: In the News

Tags: Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

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